Chris Heaton-Harris arrived in Northern Ireland with a reputation for getting things done.

As a former Chief Whip of the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson, he was used to politicians under his direction doing what they were told.

Perhaps he thought the politicians at Stormont would dutifully fall into line and dance to his tune.

If he did, he clearly had not paid close attention to politics north of the border. Saying No is nothing new.

Initial impressions of the main parties were that he appeared to be straight-talking and no-nonsense.

"He says we should judge him on what he does," said one senior party official after a meeting.

"His message was that he means what he says and says what he means."

Those comments, made to all the main parties, have not aged well.

For weeks, the Northern Secretary repeatedly insisted he would call a fresh Stormont election as quickly as humanly possible if power-sharing was not restored by a minute past midnight last Friday.

On 18 October, he appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

Pressed by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley of the DUP on the likely timing of a fresh poll, he said on the record that it would be before Christmas.

Northern Ireland's Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVeigh wrote to the parties and potential polling station staff to say Thursday 15 December was the most likely date.

None of the main Stormont parties believed him at first, but he was so adamant so often that it seemed a festive election was unavoidable.

Then it wasn’t.

First, the minute past midnight deadline passed with an expression of regret that power-sharing had not been restored, but no date for an election.

Asked last Friday afternoon by BBC Northern Ireland’s Political Editor Edna McClafferty if he had just performed a U-turn, he snapped "No".

But he had. Chris Heaton-Harris had blinked.

Throughout the past week the expectation grew that another U-turn was being prepared, despite strong words from the Northern Ireland Office.

On Wednesday, Steve Baker, a junior NIO minister who reports to Mr Heaton-Harris, told a Westminster committee that his boss would name the date for an election soon.

Twelve days ago, he was in very bullish mood, saying "everyone should understand that there’s going to be an election if the executive doesn’t reform".

He added: "This is one place where we are really not going to have a U-turn."

Then came the sound of another screeching U-turn this morning, with his boss confirming that there will not be a pre-Christmas election after all.

This morning’s statement by the Northern Secretary also appeared to pave the way for another U-turn.

Mr Heaton-Harris again pointed out that "current legislation" requires him to name a date for an election to take place within 12 weeks of the 28 October deadline for power-sharing to be restored.

He will make a statement in the House of Commons next week to set out what happens next.

There is a growing expectation that the next move will be the British Government changing the legislation to remove the obligation for an election for the foreseeable future.

This is all clearly part of a strategy by new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to give talks between the UK and EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute more time to find a solution.

While Chris Heaton-Harris and Steve Baker are in the front seats of the NIO car, it is being driven remotely from Downing Street.

The hazard lights are on as another sharp turn appears to be approaching.